Book Review: The Cat’s Pajamas

Review cross-posted on our sister site, Caterpickles. 

The Cat’s Pajamas: 101 of the World’s Cutest Cats by Rachel Hale

The Cat's Pajamas: 101 of the World's Cutest Cats
By Rachael Hale
Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC, 2009
Age Range: All Ages

If you also read my parenting blog, Caterpickles, you might think that The Four-Year-Old was simply obsessed with dinosaurs, but that is only because I have refrained from reporting most of her cat-related antics on the theory that the Internet already has enough cats.

Just how much does my daughter love cats?

Not satisfied with a mere 70 or so breeds of domestic cat, my daughter has conjured up a new breed of her own, which she has named the Sproing Cat. Sproing Cats have all sorts of amazing features. One of my favorites is the static-electricity-powered tail light (literally, a light at the tip of the tail), which Sproing Cats can flip over their heads so that they can see in the dark. Because the incredible Sproing Cat is constantly generating static electricity, this light never goes out–enabling this nocturnal animal to see even on the darkest nights.

Every day my daughter shares some new and amazing fact about Sproing Cats. There’s so much news rushing in at the moment that she has created an entire cable news network, the Sproing Cat News Network (SCNN), dedicated to covering the breed.

In contrast, my daughter is quite content to populate her imaginary friendship circles with previously identified species of dinosaurs, and beyond a tendency to teach the carnivores to be vegetarians, pretty much keeps to the facts about her dinosaur friends.

So when I found The Cat’s Pajamas in the bargain bin at my local bookstore I was pretty sure I had found a winner.

Lots and lots of pictures of cats meant my pre-reading daughter would be able to wallow in cats to her heart’s delight, buying me some precious time to sleep in or read a book of my own.

This theory was only half-right. I did find a winner, but there is nothing quiet about my daughter’s enjoyment of this book.

“Mommyo, there’s a cat in a bag, can you believe your eyes?”

“Mommyo, there’s a cat wearing glasses! That’s so silly!”

“Mommyo, that cat’s purple!”

(No, really, apparently British Shorthairs come in purple now. Well, lilac, if you want to get technical about it. Regardless, I have no doubt that “Sproing cat fur is purple” will be breaking news on the SCNN very soon.)

The Cat’s Pajamas is clearly a big hit with my daughter, who has fallen asleep clutching it more than once.

So what do I think about The Cat’s Pajamas?

I like many things about it too. There are several breeds in here that I’ve never heard of, and Hale does a good job of succinctly describing the origins of those rarer (and/or newer) breeds.

My main criticism of the book is that the subtitle, “101 of the World’s Cutest Cats,” sets an impossibly high bar for a book that doesn’t include a single tortoiseshell cat.

Our cat, Mulberry, sporting my daughter’s orange sunglasses. (Photo: Shala Howell)

Also, with a few exceptions such as the silver shaded Chinchilla Persian on p. 150, the chocolate Mandalay on p. 66, and the cream Devon Rex on p 52, Hale’s photos are simply extremely competent images of cats being cats. Here and there Hale shows her subjects doing something unexpected and adorable, but for the most part, her images lack the artistry of Anne Geddes or the humor of William Wegman. The cover photo actually is a pretty good example of what I mean. The photo is cute, but cat-wearing-bow is hardly a surprising or original concept.

That said, my daughter (who has never heard of either Geddes or Wegman) clearly doesn’t care. She just loves having a photo album of her beloved kittens.

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